Basketball: Bryant deflects questions over retirement, says he's focused on new season

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant said he has not made any decision over his retirement.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant said he has not made any decision over his retirement.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant said on Monday he has not made any decision over his looming retirement as he prepares to embark on his 20th season with the franchise.

His future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent months as the 37-year-old enters the second year of a two-year contract signed in 2013.

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said on Friday he believed Bryant could elect to extend his career with another team after this season, doubting he would choose to retire.

But Bryant kept reporters guessing on Monday as he wearily brushed off questions about his plans, saying he did not know when the time would come.

"I don't know what will be the decisive factor," he said.

"How do we know when it's time? Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, it was different for all of them. Will I wake up one morning and say 'That's it'? Is it a gradual thing?

"I don't spend much time to think about it - there is so much to think about, this season, this group."

Bryant admitted that having to field questions about his retirement date "can be a pain".

"But when I sit back and think about it, it's cool because it means that I had a very good career, people respect my career."

The Lakers' fortunes have nosedived in recent years, with the team failing to make the play-offs last year.

Bryant's fortunes have also fluctuated, with shoulder, Achilles and knee injuries all limiting his ability to help inspire the team as the elder statesman.

He acknowledged that prospects for the upcoming season were uncertain but said he was excited by the mix of experience and youth on the roster.